Monday, July 6, 2009

Dance, Rhetoric, Wrestle, Rice

James and I originally decided to apply to OLPCorps for a deployment in Tidjikja, Mauritania with the Peace Corps as our local partner because my brother, Seth, is living and working there. We both thought that the project was a good idea, but without a dependable connection we didn't know if the project could work. As it turned out it can. Only a few weeks after we first corresponded with our new Peace Corps contact, we found ourselves fully situated into our school, Ecole Notre Dame, and watching a traditional wrestling match just feet away from the mayor of Mboro. Drumming in the back ground too.

On consecutive weekends we have seen wrestling matches in Mboro. For the first we waited through the dancing, singing and a few speaches for over four hours before the first grapple. The scene in general is completely masculine, but there are women too in a healthy minorty. They sit mostly on one side of the stands, while a few more take seats in the VIP section under the awning.

At our first match we sat only feet away from the current mayor of our town; this past saturday across the stands from the mayor who won the election. Yes it's true. In a contested election the candidate who received the most votes was passed over by his political party for the current mayor. The current mayor has brought much controversy to Mboro for a few reaspons including his religion. The elected candidate in Muslim, like the majority of people in Mboro, while the newly instated mayor is Catholic like the small minority of this town.

In both cases after a few short speaches and a good deal of dancing and singing, the politics took a back seat to the grappling in the sand pit. Each wrestler comes with a couple of buddies to the match and they dance around and participating in ceremonies ranging from pouring water on the wrestler's head to burying leaves in the center of the pit. Nothing sillier than Nomar Garciaparra stepping into the batter's box.

The actual wrestling is a small portion of the time that most people spend at the arena, but it is highly anticipated and exciting. The wreslers swing their arms at each other and try to get a good grasp of their opponent. Often they lock up and can stay that way for a good bit of the fight. The first one on their back loses, while the victor's supporters rush through the string barrier held up by wooden poles to celebrate in a college football way. And instead of a shiny trophy, the winner goes home with a huge bag of rice and a box of sugar.